Monthly Archives: February 2012

High Schoolers and Great Expectations

“Great Expectations” is a perfect novel to teach high school students.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Romney as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady?!

“I do believe her, though I know she lies,” wrote Shakespeare about the dark lady. It could also be said by some Republican voters about Mitt Romney.

Posted in Shakespeare (William) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Unruly Women Playing Cards

The Folger’s revival of Susanne Centlivre’s 1705 comedy about unruly women playing cards has coincided well with battles in Congress over who has the right to control women’s bodies.

Posted in Centlivre (Susanna) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Cleanness of Sweet Abstinence

Herbert paradoxically describes Lent as a “dear Feast” in which we can revel.

Posted in Herbert (George) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Downton Abbey vs. the Super Bowl

The conflict between the Super Bowl and “Downton Abbey” is anticipated in Tom Robbins’s comic novel “Skinny Legs and All,” only with a dancer rather than a television series.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Random Reading: Intoxicant, Tranquilizer

A. S. Byatt describes narrative as “one of the best intoxicants or tranquilizers.”

Posted in Smollett (Tobias) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Using Lit to Figure Out Mitt

Which literary character is Mitt Romney? Possibilities include Faustus, Chauncey Gardener, the Hollow Men, Richard Cory, Tom Buchanan, and Joseph Conrad’s Station Manager.

Posted in Salinger (J. D.) | 4 Comments

Jeremy Lin Speaks Out Loud and Bold

See explosive Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin appear from nowhere brings to mind the Keats poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.”

Posted in Keats (John) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Has Obama Been a Naïve Wealtheow?

Pundits debates whether Obama has been naive in his dealings with opponents. The same question can be asked of Queen Wealtheow in “Beowulf.”

Posted in Beowulf Poet | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A Glimpse from God’s Eyes

In Kathy Coffey’s poem, a mountain hike reveals a sudden glimpse into the sublime that brings Jesus’s transfiguration to mind.

Posted in Coffey (Kathy) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

In “The Artist,” Silence Is Golden

“The Artist” is a feast of allusions for those who know and love Hollywood’s golden age.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Death, Faustus, and a Search for Meaning

The Faustus story can aid one in an existential search for meaning.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Reading: Like Bondage, Play, and Sex?

In my Theories of the Reader course, we have been taking note of different analogies that theorists apply to reading literature. French phenomenologist George Poulet (“Criticism and the Experience of interiority”) describes reading as a forceful intrusion by the book: As soon as I replace my direct perception of reality by the words of a […]

Posted in Austen (Jane), Sterne (Lawrence) | 2 Comments

Once We Memorized Poetry

Memorizing poetry used to be standard classroom practice and poetry was widely popular before the snobs came in.

Posted in Coleridge (Samuel Taylor), Keats (John), Kilmer (Joyce), Kipling (Rudyard), Riley (James Whitcomb), Shelley (Percy), Tennyson (Alfred Lord), Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Imagine the Wife of Bath vs. Rick Santorum

Candidate for the GOP presidential nominee Rick Santorum opposes birth control on the basis of natural law. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath would take his head off.

Posted in Chaucer (Geoffrey) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Praise the Wet Snow

In her poem about a gray October day, Denise Levertov senses “the invisible sun burning beyond.”

Posted in Levertov (Denise) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

We Can’t Be Knocked Out with One Punch

Clint Eastwood’s Super Bowl ad has stirred up a political storm but it reminds me of Tennyson’s “Ulysses.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Dickens Puts Lawyers on Trial

Charles Dickens was especially severe on lawyers, who show up in 11 of his 15 novels.

Posted in Dickens (Charles) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I’ll Never Find Out What A. Thought of Me

Last week’s death of Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, 1996 Nobel prize winner, gives me the occasion to share a wonderful poem about the mystery of what others think of us and why they behave as they do.

Posted in Szymborska (Wislawa) | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Eli, the Unpromising Youth of Fairy Tales

Eli Manning is like the unpromising younger brother in fairy tales who surprises his elders and takes home the gold.

Posted in Ruskin (John) | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Midwife, No Doc, at Grandson’s Birth

My new grandson had the birth experience denied Tristram Shandy: one where a midwife was in charge.

Posted in Sterne (Lawrence) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Knowledge Born of Suffering

Rumi’s poem “The Lame Goat” has offered solace to those suffering from physical and emotional setbacks.

Posted in Rumi | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Child’s Murder, a Humane Vision

“Troubled Water,” a 2008 Norwegian film about a horrendous crime, brings out the depth and humanity of everyone involved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Can Poetry Be Bad for You?

The possibility that poetry can have a deleterious effect on one (the poetry of Scott and Byron anyway) is a possibility that Austen brings up in “Persuasion.”

Posted in Austen (Jane), Byron (Lord Gordon), Scott (Sir Walter) | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Singing the Miracle of New Birth

“As the robin singeth after rain,” so are we all singing after the birth of my first grandchild.

Posted in Bates (Scott) | Tagged , , | 6 Comments


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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